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It’s important for cardiac patients to attend rehab programmes, says Dr Kathryn Carver, President of the British Association for Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation.

What are cardiovascular prevention and rehabilitation programmes? 

These are free NHS programmes, delivered by healthcare professionals to BACPR standards, usually running over two to three months. They aim to empower people who have experienced a cardiac event with the confidence to manage their condition through better knowledge and exercise. Attendees can ask questions and address health concerns, particularly if they haven’t been able to see their GP. 

How are the programmes delivered? 

There are group sessions available outside hospital settings in local community locations, such as gyms and church halls. However, some patients may be happier to follow a programme at home via an NHS-approved app, or virtually via the web, and receive a weekly follow-up phone call from a healthcare professional. It’s all about patient choice. 

Who is eligible to attend?  

Anyone who has had a heart event such as a heart attack, heart failure, cardiac surgery or angina. Patients can be referred to a programme by their GP, or they can self-refer. However, most attendees are referred after a hospital stay by their consultant or healthcare team. 

Patients can have a better quality of life
and valuable peer-to-peer support.

What do the programmes involve? 

They have an educational component. Then there’s an exercise component in a class setting — or, if preferred, patients can exercise at home. Programmes include an educational component where patients are given information about how best to change behaviours to adopt healthier lifestyles, they also include advice on risk factors and medicines along with supervised or home exercise sessions.   Patients are encouraged to keep healthy after the programme ends by accessing self-funded support services. 

Which healthcare professionals are involved in the programme? 

They can include cardiac nurses, physiotherapists, exercise professionals and dieticians. Psychological support is key, too, because cardiac events are often traumatic and isolating.  

What’s your advice to patients who are nervous about attending? 

Don’t be! We would urge every cardiac patient to come along and try it. These programmes are non-judgemental and so important. Patients can have a better quality of life and valuable peer-to-peer support — and, if their healthy lifestyles continue, decrease risk of further cardiac events and reduce the chance of hospital readmission. 

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